|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|Index||20 reviews in total|
I had seen Time Limit three times before, always greatly admiring and
appreciating the taut court-martial drama. I find it unfortunate that
Malden never took another director's turn after such an impressive debut.
The acting and direction still hold up well with tour-de-force performances
by Basehart and Widmark. These are complemented nicely by dead-on
portrayals by Carl Benton Reid, Rip Torn, Martin Balsam, and Yale Wexler as
far less humane military characters. Dolores Costello and June Lockhart
also give strong performances.
But, the reason I write this today is to comment upon how timely Time Limit is to today's POW controversies. In this regard, I consider the 1962 film "the Hook" with Kirk Douglas almost as a companion piece. The questions are the same. How far should a soldier suppress his humanity in the name of the Army Code? How accountable should a soldier be held who defies the code in order to act in accordance with his conscience? How accountable should a soldier be held who obeys orders later judged to be inhumane? All these are central issues in wake of the recent Abu Gharib controversies.
Time Limit does an excellent job of examining these dilemmas and convincing those of us who weren't already convinced that there are no easy answers. War, by its nature, is an inhumane activity, ordered by humans and executed by humans who to accomplish their orders must deny within themselves subjugate the very humanity that gives each of us his or her purpose in life. Time Limit and The Hook both provide thoughtful and fairly objective examinations of the issues involved.
Time Limit has always been worth watching. Its renewed relevancy just makes it even more so.
I have to take exception to other reviewers calling Time Limit, a
courtroom drama. There are no scenes in any courtroom, military or
civilian. Still it's a very engrossing story.
Richard Widmark is acting as an investigative officer for the Judge Advocate General's Office trying to ascertain if there are enough facts to bring Richard Basehart to trial for treason. Basehart was a prisoner of war in Korea who is accused of collaborating with the enemy.
Through a lot of patient probing of Basehart and others, Widmark arrives at a very ugly story that while it doesn't totally exonerate Basehart it does give him the basis for a defense. So much so that Widmark requests he be assigned as Basehart's attorney when he does come up for court martial.
Time Limit ran for 127 performances on Broadway in 1956 and starred Arthur Kennedy and Richard Kiley in the roles Widmark and Basehart play. Widmark's good friend Karl Malden did this one time only job of directing and gets good performances from his cast.
Time Limit asks a lot of disturbing questions about the behavior of prisoners of war and whether we expect too much from them. Ironically when the USS Pueblo was taken by the North Koreans in the late sixties, these same questions were asked for real.
Richard Widmark exudes concern and empathy as an army colonel investigating the circumstances behind a charge of treason. The film also contains effective performances by Richard Basehart, as the accused traitor, a major who shares a secret he is unwilling to reveal, and a young Rip Torn as a lieutenant who is also willing to keep the secret even though he knows it will lead to a miscarriage of justice. The film is based on a play, and Karl Malden, in his only directing assignment, tries hard to open it up, but most of the scenes take place in Widmark's office, and there are way too many point of view shots of one person talking while another listens. Malden does make effective use of a few flashbacks to a frigid P.O.W. barracks in North Korea, and there are some interesting shots of the military base at Governors Island in New York City, but the film suffers somewhat from staginess. Piercing, discordant, almost alarmingly loud music by Fred Steiner punctuates scenes in the P.O.W. camps, where a complex mixture of motives lead to actions that have devastating consequences.
This is a fantastic piece of work. To start things off, the casting is superb with Richard Basehart, Richard Widmark, Martin Balsam, Rip Torn, June Lockhart, and Carl Benton Reid. The editing and cinematography are sharp, crisp, and electric. This was filmed in black & white, and I am convinced that color would have ruined the tension which is present throughout the whole movie. What really makes this movie work is the top-notch directing of Karl Malden (the only movie he ever directed). What I absolutely do not understand is why this excellent film is not available for purchase. If you ever get a chance to see this movie, DO SEE IT! Request this film. Maybe one of the movie channels will show it.
With Richard Basehart as the man on trial, this is one of his most
works I have ever had the pleasure to see. Richard Widmark is also in one
his finest roles as the Colonel who is also Baseharts Lawyer.
As it starts out in a POW Camp somewhere in Korea--you get a gritty feel of what some of those men had to endure--thanks to the fine acting done my Richard Basehart. Thanks to Richard Widmark--you also get a great job done as a man who is trying to up-hold the honors of his profession under incredable pressure from his Commanding Officer--a General, to come up with a quick conviction on Basehart.
I highly recommend this movie as something to see. You will not be disappoiinted in the time you spent in watching this VERY fine film.
The post-war era brought a new-fangled maturity to Hollywood – largely
by way of talent coming in from the rival fields of theater and
television (and expressed particularly in intense social dramas, often
with a dash of psychology) – which considerably invigorated the style
of Hollywood film-making in general and even helped towards achieving a
more liberal censorship.
The film under review actually bears an affinity to four of the very finest efforts made during this era: Elia Kazan’s ON THE WATERFRONT (1954) – in its depiction of revenge within a close-knit outfit upon a stool pigeon in their midst (which had featured TIME LIMIT director Malden as an actor and Martin Balsam, who also appears here, in a bit part); Stanley Kubrick’s PATHS OF GLORY (1957) – in which army attorney Kirk Douglas also faces opposition (for his meticulous defence) from his superior officers who want to escape personal embarrassment by hastily doing away with the case in question; Sidney Lumet’s TWELVE ANGRY MEN (1957; again with Balsam) – similarly dealing with an investigation packed with twists, as well as not technically being a courtroomer; and John Frankenheimer’s THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962) – likewise set during the Korean War and involving brainwashing (plus also featuring Khigh Deigh).
Of course, it’s not quite on the same level of those milestone titles but definitely emerges as an underrated little film – its very sensitive nature (presenting all sides of the equation i.e. duty to rank and country-vs.-loyalty to, and consideration for, one’s fellow man but then leaving the audience to make up its own mind) possibly hindered any chance at Oscar glory, which would have been entirely deserving…or, perhaps, it was simply because there were already two courtroom dramas commanding attention at that year’s ceremony (the afore-mentioned TWELVE ANGRY MEN and Billy Wilder’s equally brilliant WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION) – though, ironically, both remained empty-handed after all!
Malden’s sole directing effort is impressive (though, again, not up to, say, Charles Laughton’s THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER ) and one that gains excellent performances from practically the entire cast. Richard Widmark – a Hollywood star who wasn’t afraid to appear in meaningful films – personally co-produced this one (while others in similar vein he was featured in were NO WAY OUT , JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG , CHEYENNE AUTUMN  and THE BEDFORD INCIDENT ). Richard Basehart is typically anxious (and compelling) as the soldier accused of treason; he, at least, was awarded with a BAFTA nomination for his work here. Pretty Dolores Michaels is very engaging as Widmark’s sympathetic aide; the only other significant female role, turning up in just one scene, is played by June Lockhart: knowing her chiefly from SHE-WOLF OF London (1946), I was surprised to see her in such a demanding part (at one point, frankly confessing to Widmark her marital problems with Basehart) – but she fills it admirably. Martin Balsam’s character, as Widmark’s well-meaning but more often intrusive colleague, provides the sole concession to humor here – and, consequently, is entirely welcome for it. The film’s compactness, based as it is on a stage play, necessitates that it focuses on just two of the testimonies given by the sixteen soldiers involved in the case being tried – the other, apart from Basehart himself, offers a meaty early role for Rip Torn (which, of course, heralds an eventual revelation concerning his particular character). Carl Benton Reid appears as Widmark’s superior and close friend, a by-the-book military officer of the old school whose integrity is shattered by the end of the film in view of his own son’s unforeseen behavior while in captivity.
A gripping, thought-provoking and emotionally-draining experience (in spite of the horrid quality of the VHS version I watched – copied from Cable TV which, at the time, was suffering from bad reception!), I can’t figure out what’s holding this from getting a decent DVD release: hopefully, Widmark’s recent passing will start the ball rolling in this regard. Ultimately, I have to admit that my response to TIME LIMIT was so strong because it may have been influenced by my own current personal situation: notoriety following the violent death of a relative in the course of some shady activity – and which goes hand in hand with the film’s assertion that a man’s whole life, irrespective of how it was spent, will be judged by people who can’t know the whole story on the strength of that single reckless and deplorable act...
Across the frigid nightmare that is the Korean War, there are a thousand nameless graves over which a like amount of ghosts hover. Those haunting's are what drive American writers to pen as many stories onto the pages of that Forgotten War. One of those superb writers is Henry Denker who wrote this story called " Time Limit. " It takes place in one of the many American Army units captured and imprisoned in a P.O.W. camps by the North Koreans. This central story is about one, Major Harry Cargill (Richard Basehart) who having survived the war is now arrested and faces General Court martial and death by firing squad. To see Cargill is given every opportunity to defend himself, Gen. J. Connors (Carl Reid) assigns Col. William Edwards (Richard Widmark) who takes his job seriously. Two surprises hamper Edwards. One, Cargill wants to plead guilty and offers no defense at his trial. Most of the men who come forward to testify agree as to his guilt and find no reason to stop the execution. With the great actor, Karl Malden directing this film and casting such heavies such as Martin Balsam, Rip Torn, Yale Wexler and June Lockhart, this assembly make for a Classic. The movie is assured success with the fine performances and the stark Black and White reality of the Korean War. Excellent vehicle for both Basehart and Widmark. Easilly recommended. ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I found this to be a very gripping tale about a former POW soldier
being accused of treason. Colonel Edwards (Richard Widmark) is assigned
to research the case and make a recommendation for whether a court
martial trial should be initiated. He interviews the other soldiers
assigned to this man's POW camp, as well as the accused, Major Harry
Cargill (Richard Basehart). Everyone at Col. Edwards office, including
his boss, General Connors (Carl Reid), believes the man is guilty and
they should expedite him to court martial proceedings. Except for Col.
Edwards - he has a gut feeling that there is something more to this
story. He especially is confused as to why the accused is unwilling to
defend himself and wants only to accept responsibility and the
There are top notch performances here - but especially by Basehart as the accused. He is quite believable in the conflict that is going on inside him. Widmark also delivers well in portraying the Colonel who is willing to put his job on the line if it means getting to the truth. I also thought the flashback scene to the POW's that reveals what really happens was very well done. It is a grizzly scene that I think was directed well by Karl Malden and was well played by all the actors involved.
There are tough questions here as to the limits of POW's and whether or not the military code is applicable in all situations. I don't want to give the plot away. But the climax scene where all is revealed to the General and the Colonel by the accused in the Colonel's office is wonderfully acted by Basehart. He truly captures the agony that is war and what decisions soldiers are often faced with in the hell of POW camps.
I am very supportive of the military and the sacrifices made by the men and women in uniform. Major Cargill asks "for hundreds of days he was a hero, and only on 1 day he breaks...does he lose his standing in the human race because he broke on that 1 last day?" There are tough questions raised here and I don't know that there are any satisfying answers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** Shocking drama of what went on in the North Korean POW
camps and how it turned men into mindless and obedient zombies in them
being brainwashed by the North Koreans and their Red Chinese allies.
The case in point in the movie is that of the almost brain-dead in him not caring about what he's facing Maj. William Cargill, Richard Basehart. The Major has been charged with high treason in cooperating with his North Korean captors back in 1951 when he was imprisoned by them as a POW. It was then that Maj. Cargill made false claims in both writing as well as broadcasts on Radio Pyongyang claiming that the US and UN were using germ bombs or bacteriological warfare against the helpless North Korean civilians as well as soldiers!
With US Army Col. William Edwards, Richard Widmark, handing his case he gets no help from Maj. Cargill in him trying to defend himself even if convicted of his crimes he may well end up facing a firing squad. Knowing that something just isn't right with this puzzling case Col. Edwards digs deep down into what's behind Maj. Cargill's strange behavior by interviewing the men, his fellow POWS, who were in the North Korean POW camp with him. It's when Col. Edwards comes to interviewing Let. Miller, Rip Torn, that he strikes a nerve in what exactly is behind Maj. Cargill's noncooperation with him in not wanting any defense provided by him or the US Military. Something went on in that prison camp between both the captured US POWS and their North Korean captors headed by the smiling and sinister North Korean Col. Kim, Khigh Dhiegh, that went beyond anything in the mistreating of prisoner of war! Something so mind boggling and evil that it turned Maj. Cargill into something that he never would have dreamed of being! Even with a gun pointed to his skull! A traitor to his country!
***SPOILERS*** Even though it's old hat now back then in the early 1950's brainwashing was something that most Americans never heard of or even contemplated. It was those brainwashing tactics, far more then torture, conducted by the North Koreans and Red Chinese on US and UN troops captured by them that drove men like Maj. Cargill to grudgingly cooperate with them. In Maj. Cargill case it was for the safety and lives of his men not his own that made him do it! And in the end it was that shocking revelation that had Col. Edwards who was to prosecute Maj. Cargill for treason to completely change him mind! Col. Edwards against the the advice of his superior Let. Gen. Connors, Carl Berton Reid, who's own son Capt. Joe Connors, Yale Wexler, was one of those in the prison camp along with Maj. Cargill, and who died there, decided to defend not prosecute Maj. Cargill even if it ends up costing him his career in the US Army!
P.S The movie "Time Limit" was the only movie ever directed by actor Karl Malden who also had a cameo part in it as one of the POWS in the North Korean prison camp.
Time Limit (1957)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Hard-hitting drama about Maj. Harry Cagill (Richard Basehart) who is brought up on charges of treason after being in a Korean War camp and giving information to the enemy. Once back in the states Col. Edwards (Richard Widmark) tries to understand what made him crack but he refuses to talk and all of his men give the same strange story, which doesn't make enough sense to Edwards. This film isn't very well known today, which is a shame but I'm going to guess that part of the reason is that it was released in the same year as both 12 ANGRY MEN and WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION. All three films deal with twists and turns within a court setting, although this film here just deals with an investigation as we don't get to actually step inside the courtroom. With that said, all three films share a lot in common but this film manages to ask some pretty hard questions and it doesn't pull any punches with the answer. The film is brutally frank in its subject matter and even though we don't find the answers we're looking for until the final ten-minutes, the film still manages to pack one major punch after another. I think a lot of credit must go to Malden, in his only adventure as a director, and I do wonder how much influence Elia Kazan had on him. The film has a certain look and feel of ON THE WATERFRONT, which Malden of course made with Kazan. It appears that both films ask a lot of the same questions about bravery, talking and how much one person should take. Seeing as how this one takes place in the military it's clear that there is a political slant going on here as I'm sure many people would have to ask themselves how much torture, sickness and threats of death they could take without talking or trying to save their own skin. The "time limit" of bravery is an interesting question and we get many different answers as to how one person should be. The final ten-minutes is when things really start to break down as we finally get some answers and the twist here has been debated by quite a few reviewers. I personally didn't mind the twist and I think it worked well for what the film was going for. There were several directions that the film could have went for but the one they selected worked well enough for me. Another major benefit are the performances with Widmark leading the way in a rather laid back performance by the actor who was often shown as being a demanding, strong character. I thought Widmark was very believable playing it so laid back and I think that quiet nature here actually helped the film as it seems he was the only one who didn't want revenge for what had happened but instead just wanted the truth. Basehart is terrific as well in showing the hell that his character is going through. Dolores Michaels is good as Widmark's aide, June Lockhart is very strong in her one scene and Martin Balsam is on hand for some needed comedy relief. This is certainly an emotionally draining picture as the subject matter is rather ugly and the picture doesn't pull any punches. Malden handles the material extremely well and it's a shame we didn't get to see what else he could do behind the camera.
|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|External reviews||Parents Guide||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|